The Ambassador in Nicaragua ( Warren ) to the Director of the Office of Latin American Affairs ( Warren )

Dear Avra: Let me refer to my letter of July 14, 1945, enclosing a copy of a secret memorandum21 from Colonel LeEoy Bartlett, Chief of the Military Mission to Nicaragua, to the Commanding General of the Caribbean Defense Command regarding an interview which he had with President Somoza on July 12.

The President returned to town yesterday from his ranch at Montelimar. I saw him at noon today and had an hour and a half with him. There is no doubt that he has been upset and his feelings hurt by what he considers cavalier treatment on the part of our Government. Parenthetically let me say that I believe as a result of our conversation he is feeling much better this afternoon.

I discussed with the President the points mentioned in Colonel Bartlett’s letter. The key to his disappointment is his failure to receive the few rifles and small amount of ammunition which he has been trying to get, as he said, for two years. I tried to emphasize our side of the story as much as required, but knowing the United States as he does, we are not going to be able to convince him that it is not possible for us to supply the small amount of rifles and ammunition desired when our productions are so stupendous and others receive other commodities in large quantities. That impression will persist despite the correctness of any facts. Were he to receive the rifles and ammunition, I feel that the other contributing causes of his discontent would soon disappear.

During part of the conversation his son, Captain Luis Somoza, Military Attaché in Washington, was present. The son told the President in my presence that the “second-hand shoes” were the result of a faulty requisition by the Nicaraguan Government. The reference to the “two old training planes costing $8,000” both Luis and the President said should be forgotten.

I discussed at length, and I believe to good effect, his belief that the War Department was in favor of him and the State Department against him. I tried to make it clear that the State Department always is called upon to express the official views of the United States Government and that when it does express such a view, the view of the War Department or any particular officer of that Department is no longer valid. At the end of the discussion on this point he suggested, and I agreed, that hereafter should General Brett, the Chief [Page 1203] of the Military Mission to Nicaragua, or any other official coining to Nicaragua make suggestions as to what might be done, such suggestions are not to receive serious consideration unless they are first approved by the Embassy. If this suggestion is observed, I think that we will have less trouble in the future.

This leads me to state that, after this conversation with the President, I am convinced that his attitude and misunderstanding is entirely due to the many high officials of the War Department and the Chief of the Military Mission who have talked to him and made suggestions to which he has always promptly responded. But his response has not brought corresponding action on their part.

I cannot emphasize too strongly the need for the Department and the Embassy to continue to be most careful in trying to see that officials of other Departments of the Government coming to Nicaragua understand fully that they cannot obligate the United States Government. I am sure that the other members of this staff will agree with me that the fewer such visits we have, the better. I intend, when the replacement comes for Colonel Bartlett, to have a heart-to-heart talk with him and see if he can’t understand from the beginning that he must restrict his activities entirely to those provided by the terms of the contract. He should not make suggestions beyond the range of his contract.

As I have said, I cannot emphasize too strongly the thought in the preceding paragraph. However, that is not to say that we should not use United States Army and Navy personnel in military and naval missions in behalf of continental defense. If we don’t supply such missions, other countries will do so. As long as the American republics are of paramount interest to us, we should see that whatever military assistance they need is supplied by the United States. We must accomplish this without allowing such missions to complicate or to interfere with the State Department’s responsibility for the conduct of foreign affairs.

With regard to the last paragraph of the Department’s secret instruction no. 34 of July 13, 1945, (which was received after my talk with the President this morning) I may say that the President is very much upset over the standard contract. He said that it was originally suggested to him that he pay $5,000. He added that he voluntarily raised it to $6,000. When Captain Somoza took up the matter in the Department and said that Nicaragua was unable to pay more than $6,000, he had waved at him a standard form of contract with the intimation that “he could take it or leave it.” The President said that if that is the way the United Sates treats a friend, that he would “leave it.” He declared that Nicaragua is unable to [Page 1204] pay more than $6,000 and that under the terms of the standard contract that sum would give him a mission of one and a fraction men. I don’t know what the Department has decided with respect to the standard form of contract. If the policy decided upon precludes Nicaragua’s receiving any different treatment from that accorded the other nations of Central America, I hope the Department will give me a full and succinct explanatory instruction which I can show to the President. I am not exaggerating when I say that he was very angry about this.

I want to say once more that members of this staff tell me that we have asked President Somoza for nothing that we haven’t received. He prides himself on being a friend of the United States.… He feels strongly that he deserves better treatment than he, a friend, is getting. I believe he should have the arms and ammunition and I hope that he can get them quickly. Furthermore, I hope that if Captain Somoza returns to Washington that he can be made to feel that we are friendly toward Nicaragua.

To illustrate what may be behind Captain Somoza’s and the President’s dissatisfaction, I repeat an incident which the President related to me this morning. He said that Captain Somoza had gone to the Department regarding the rifles and ammunition. He had pointed out that Guatemala was to receive certain arms but that Nicaragua had gotten none. A few days later when he went back to the Department, he met Guatemalan representatives in the corridor who asked him what he had against Guatemala. They told Captain Somoza that they had been refused their arms because he had objected to their receiving them. Captain Somoza said that he had made no objection to their getting their arms. All he had tried to do was get arms for Nicaragua. Later, when Captain Somoza came through Guatemala on July 4, he saw Sr. Arbenz, who asked Somoza what he had against Guatemala. Again Somoza was placed in the embarrassing position of having to defend his action to get arms for his own country.

I would still like to have any information you can give me on the unanswered points raised by the President in Colonel Bartlett’s memorandum.

This is a long message, but I believe I now have before you the main points of the situation. I want to close by saying that I have confidence in the President and think that as long as he is the President we would be foolish to make an enemy out of a chief of state who has consistently been our friend.

With kindest regards [etc.]

Fletcher Warren
  1. Neither printed.